Ted Heath was born in Wandsworth, London into a musical family in 1900 and by his early teens was playing the trombone. The 1920s were a difficut economic time and after some unsatisfactory attempts at non musical employment Heath ended up in a busking band in the West End of London. He became a professional musician in the early 1920s and played with a number of bands including the Southern Syncopated Orchestra, Harry Lester's Cowboy Syncopators and then Jack Hylton. After brief spells with Bert Firman and Al Starita he was back to Jack Hylton for two years followed by eight years as an Ambrose sideman. A spell with Sydney Lipton was followed by a long spell through the second world war (1939-45) in the Geraldo band where he was section leader. His technical proficiency saw him as a 'sessioneer' on hundreds of studio dates.
In 1942, with his wife, Moira, he wrote a hit tune, A Lovely Weekend. Largely due to Glenn Miller, 'swing' music was 'the rage' and Heath - a quiet, tee-totaller, non-smoker and strict disciplinarian, formed his band, funded by royalties from this hit song and shrewdly, captured the spirit of the time. He reportedly, did not like jazz or improvisation and liked his musicians to play the same solo every time they performed their feature numbers, although he was never reluctant to employ top jazz musicians.
continued top right...
continued from bottom left...|
In 1944 he formed a band for a series of BBC concerts, although he was still with Geraldo. This BBC band formed the nucleus for his own band which started to record in 1944, and he was soon to be the top name band in the country, touring Europe and eventually the USA. His repertoire was a mix of 'swing' arrangements featuring his star soloists, notably trumpeter Kenny Baker, and commercial ballads, featuring his team of vocalists. His 'Sunday Night Swing Sessions' at the London Palladium started in 1945 and for ten years were sell-outs. In 1956 the band toured the USA for a month and ended in triumph with the legendary Carnegie Hall concert that proved that the Heath band ranked with the best of the American bands.
Ted Heath died in November 1969, but the memory of the enormous impact of his band in the late Forties and throughout the Fifties and Sixties, was perpetuated by the Ted Heath Band, led by fellow trombonist Don Lusher. Their final concert, after a total 55 years of existence, took place at the Royal Festival Hall in London on 4 December 2000, a CD of which, Ted Heath: The Farewell Concert, has been released on the Avid label. Many jazz musicians, (brief details below), spent time in the Heath band and their contributions shine through on many records.
Selected discography 1940s
Selected discography 1950s
Selected discography 1960s and '70s
Below are brief notes on the various jazz musicians who spent time with Ted Heath in the 1940s and 1950s often in the early days of the band and the early days of their individual careers. Other Heath sidemen, not generally regarded as jazzmen such as Roy Willox, Bobby Pratt and Don Lusher also made jazz records outside the Heath organisation.
|Kenny Baker||1944 - 1949||Played on the first recording session on February 8th, 1944. He played with the band as lead and featured trumpet soloist through to 1949. He returned to the band for a few dates in 1967, 1968 and 1977. Any CD featuring the Heath band from the 1940s will have plenty of Kenny Baker solos or features. more...|
|Aubrey Frank||1944||Played tenor sax on the first recording session on February 8th, 1944. He later played on a number of early British bebop records in 1948. more...|
|Jack Parnell||1944 - 1951||Drummer on the first recording session on February 8th, 1944 and remained with Heath as drummer, part time vocalist and leader of a band within a band which at one time featured Ronnie Scott. more...|
|Norman Burns||1945||Played drums on one recording date in 1945, presumably when Jack Parnell was not available. more...|
|Norman Stenfalt||1945 - 1949||Pianist on all the Heath records made in this period up to May 1949. more...|
|Dave Goldberg||1945 - 1948||Guitarist on many records but at times was replaced by Pete Chilver, one of the early boppers. more...|
|Ralph Sharon||1946||Replaced Norman Stenfalt on one recording session in 1946. more...|
|Ronnie Scott||1946||Joined the band at the age of 19 and with it for most of 1946 but had problems with Heath's strict regime and was replaced by a young Tommy Whittle, although he did return for one guest recording with the band in 1958. more...|
|Tommy Whittle||1947 - 1952||Joined the band at the age of 20 enjoyed a long stay through to 1952. His fluent tenor sax solos can be heard on many records from this period. more...|
|Pete Chilver||1947 - 1949||Shared the guitar duties with Dave Goldberg over the second half of the 1940s after which Heath did not use a guitarist for many years. more...|
|Eddie Blair||1954 - 1965||After a spell with the Johnny Dankworth Seven and the Dankworth big band he joined Ted Heath for eleven years in a trumpet section that was the pride of the band. His solo opportunities were limited although always worth hearing. When he left the Heath band he freelanced extensively for many years. more...|
|Don Rendell||1955||Joined the band for a short spell in 1955 and is featured with the band on two titles on the live recording of Heath's final Palladium swing session. more...(Vocalion CD - Ted Heath at the London Palladium / Final swing session)|
|Keith Christie||1957 - 1968||Played trombone and can be heard on many record sessions in the late 1950s when Heath was recording LPs for Decca on a regular basis. more...|
|Stan Tracey||1957 - 1959||Played piano and vibes with Heath for two years. His piano and vibes playing with the band can be heard on a number of records from this period. He is well featured on piano and vibes on CD. more... (Vocalion CD - Ted Heath swing in Hi-Stereo / My Very Good Friends the Bandleaders)|
|Bob Efford||1958 - 1968||Experienced in the bands of Vic Lewis and Geraldo he had a spell with Tony Kinsey before joining Ted Heath as featured tenor sax soloist for ten years. more...|
|Bert Courtley||1960 - 1967||Replaced lead trumpeter Bobby Pratt and was used as a jazz soloist and lead trumpet sharing a split lead with Bert Ezzard. Ill health led to his departure from the band. more...|
|Ronnie Chamberlain||1957 - 1977||Joined Heath after a long spell with Vic Lewis and played alto and soprano saxophone and clarinet in a stay lasting nearly twenty years. more...|
|Alan Branscombe||1967 - 1968||Played piano with the band and is heard on the two "Swing is King" albums. more...|
|Lennie Bush||1967 - 1968||Plays on the two "Swing is King" albums as well as the final Farewell Concert in 2000. more...|
|Danny Moss||1955 / 1977||Danny Moss had two brief spells with Ted Heath. more...|
Ted Heath c1947